The global pandemic has brought teachers together in a unique way. We’ve rallied together to figure out the world of online teaching. We’ve learned to rely on each other for advice like never before.
Teachers are known to be collaborators, but this article will delve deeper into the true value of collaboration in education. Because it’s such an important topic for self-development, we’re including some thought questions for your consideration.
Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmonson has found that organizations often thrive or fail based on their ability to work as teams to learn, improve, and innovate. By sharing knowledge, employees contribute to the knowledge base, innovativeness, and ultimately competitive advantage of their organization. In schools, this could equate to the reputation that your ASL or interpreting program has in the community and ultimately attracts both students and potential teachers to your program. A program that is growing and thriving is one that sticks around.
As a teacher, I’ve discovered that in order to improve my work, I need another set of eyes to review it. I first learned this when I was in grad school for Deaf Education. I created a fun activity for kids to brainstorm vocabulary and build off each other’s ideas. I was so proud of what I’d created and couldn’t wait to present my idea to the students. My advisor also happened to be observing me that week. As I presented my lesson plans to her, she pointed out that while it was a fun activity, I didn’t have clear objectives. Something so simple and basic was missed! I learned an important lesson that day—I need constant feedback or else I become blind to my own weaknesses.
Some of us may resist sharing our work for various reasons. Maybe you’ve had negative past experiences, believe that the process takes too long, or feel that you work better alone. Maybe you have the “lone wolf” mentality that we often see in students, despite our knowledge that group work is beneficial when done right.
Here are some reasons to evaluate whether or not you’re getting enough interaction with your professional peers:
The same values of teamwork and collaboration that we invite our students to develop should be evident in our everyday work. Students should be able to see us model the same behavior that we ask of them.
Deaf Culture Values
We are collectivist in nature. We give of ourselves for the betterment of both the Deaf and teaching communities.
Improved Work Satisfaction
Sharing knowledge with others can help you feel valued for your contributions and experiences, leading to increased job satisfaction.
Remember, the success of the group or program is ultimately our own success.
There are two types of knowledge to share—explicit and tacit.
Explicit knowledge is easy to capture and usually comes in a somewhat tangible form (generally as documents, PowerPoint presentations, or manuals). Sharing explicit knowledge is usually facilitated by information technology.
On the other hand, tacit knowledge is related to an individual’s experience and thoughts. Research shows that tacit knowledge is subject to social interaction and friendship.
When shared experiences are coupled with experiences or connection to others, they become more powerful and effective. Through the process of socialization, knowledge can be transferred from one person to another.
Think about the daily interactions you have with others in your department or profession. What level of comfort are you at with them? What kinds of knowledge do you seek?
Researchers coined the term “Transactional Memory System” (TMS) to refer to a shared mental model that collectively indicates which individuals know certain things and which individuals know who knows certain things.
Think about the people you work with. Do they have expertise in some area? Playing to their strengths increases the value they bring to the team. Seek ways to highlight their skills. Similarly, think about what you have to offer the group and make sure they know.
In a state-wide survey of teachers conducted in Massachusetts, educators reported challenges in finding sufficient time to plan and collaborate with colleagues.
I hope this article brings to light how important knowledge sharing is and inspires you to find ways to continually contribute to the profession. For more inspiration, check out our Facebook group: GoReact ASL Teacher Community. Feel free to contribute a question or skill on how you use GoReact in your classroom!
Check out part one of this series: Giving Feedback for ASL—and Making It Count